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Introduces Samantha Powers. TRANSCRIPT: 9/10/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.

Guests: Samantha Power

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST:  Steve Kornacki, thank you so much for your time.  We`re going to keep monitoring throughout the night. 

That is ALL IN for this evening. 

"THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now. 

Good evening, Rachel. 

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST:  Good evening, Chris.  Thank you, my friend.  Much appreciated. 

HAYES:  You bet.

MADDOW:  Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. 

Samantha Power is here tonight with us in studio for the interview.  Samantha Power, of course, was President Obama`s ambassador to the United Nations.  Before that, she spent four years in Obama`s National Security Council.  She`s a Pulitzer Prize-winning author.  She has a new book out. 

We`re very, very happy to have Samantha Power here tonight for the interview.  I`ve been looking forward to that ever since I got the galley of her book.  Very excited. 

What I didn`t know when I got the galley of Samantha Power`s book and when we persuaded her to come on the show is that, boy, would this be a good day to have Samantha Power on the show, because today turns out to be like the feast of the Trump national security advisers on your secular advent calendar of presidential scandals.  This is a good day to have a former high-level national security official to give you some perspective. 

President Trump has only been in office, like, two and a half years.  He`s now looking for his fourth national security adviser, who I think if he finds that person will actually be the fifth person to whom he has offered the job.  But today was, like, a banner day for all of them all at once. 

Start with the first one.  President Trump`s first national security adviser Mike Flynn, he spent today in federal court where he learned of his new probable sentencing date.  The date on which he will find out if he`s going to jail after he pled guilty to a felony for lying to federal investigators about his secret contacts with the Russian government. 

Now, today was sort of a good news/bad news day for Mike Flynn.  Starting with the bad news, it just -- maybe this is just me, it does seem to me kind of ominous that the likely sentencing date he got today in court is December 18th.  If that, if fact, happens, if that`s the day Mike Flynn is finally going to be sentenced, that will mean that Mike Flynn will be back in court exactly one year later, one year to the day, since the last time he also almost got sentenced for his felony conviction. 

You might remember, we all thought that Mike Flynn was going to get sentenced for his crimes last year right before Christmas, December 18th.  But the whole thing fell apart, went spectacularly wrong in the courtroom for him to the point where the judge basically invoked the Mercy Rule to give Mike Flynn a chance to go out in the world to go do some good works or something to try to redeem himself in some way that might influence the judge`s perception because the judge was basically signaling at Mike Flynn`s first sentencing, December 18th last year, that what he was going to do was throw the book at Mike Flynn.  He gave Mike Flynn a chance to go out, go do some more cooperating with prosecutors, see if you can change my mind. 

You might remember that the transcript of Mike Flynn`s first attempt at sentencing that day.  It still glows red hot, right, the judge to Mike Flynn. 

Quote: I`m going to be very frank with you, this crime is very serious.  As I stated, it involved false statements to FBI agents on the premises of the White House, in the White House, in the West Wing, by a high-ranking security officer.  That`s a very serious offense. 

You lied to the FBI about three different topics and you made those false statements while you were serving as national security adviser, the president of the United States states` most senior national security aide.  I can`t minimize that.  Two months later, you again made false statements in multiple documents.  All along, you were an unregistered agent of a foreign country while serving as the national security adviser to the president of the United States. 

I mean, arguably -- and the judge turns to point at the American flag in the courtroom -- arguably that undermines everything this flag over here stands for.  Arguably, the judge says, you sold your country out. 

The judge then turned to the prosecutor in the Flynn case, that prosecutor just filed a brief with that judge suggesting that Flynn had been an awesome cooperator, he`d been super helpful to them.  The prosecutors did not want Flynn to get any jail time at all. 

In that moment, what was supposed to be Flynn`s sentencing hearing, the judge turned to that prosecutor, who, again, wanted nothing but lenience for Mike Flynn, and the judge says this to the prosecutor: Given the fact of the then-president of the United States imposed sanctions against Russia for interfering with federal elections in this country, is there an opinion about the conduct of the defendant in the days following that that rises to the level of treasonous activity on this part?  Hypothetically, the judge says, hypothetically, could he have been charged with treason?

I mean, the prosecutors at that point in Mike Flynn`s case were asking for him to be set free with nothing more than a stern talking to.  The judge, looking at the evidence against Flynn, was literally saying back to them, are you sure we shouldn`t be looking at the death penalty for him?  He`s asking about treason. 

That`s how it went for Trump`s first national security adviser at what was supposed to be his sentencing date, December 18th last year.  Now, as of today, he`s just learned he`s likely going to be back in court for his second try at getting sentenced and it`s once again scheduled for December 18th in the same courtroom -- in the same courthouse, in the same courtroom, with the same judge. 

I mean, just numerologically speaking, that doesn`t seem like an auspicious gift from the news gods.  So, I would file that under bad news for Trump national security adviser number one. 

You should also know, though, that Flynn`s legal case has taken like a crazy straw kind of series of turns since then.  He`s fired his old lawyers and has hired a new lawyer who`s a Fox News commentator who literally sells anti-Robert Mueller t-shirts on her Website.  Creeps on a mission.  She basically says the FBI is a crime syndicate, itself. 

And with that lawyering powering his case now, Flynn`s representation in court has taken odd turn, instead of Flynn and his lawyers trying to convince that same judge who raised the prospect of treason looking at Flynn less than a year ago, instead of just trying to convince that judge that Flynn, in fact, has been a good cooperator, prosecutors were right when they suggested no jail time for him, instead of that strategy, Flynn`s case has taken this big series of turns and now in court, including today, Flynn and his lawyers are arguing it`s all a deep state conspiracy that must be exposed and the prosecutors and FBI agents who worked on the investigation into him and the Russia investigation, it`s those prosecutors and those FBI agents who are the real criminals and they`re the ones who should all be arrested. 

And I know this is a plot line that totally makes sense at night and in the early morning on the Fox News Channel, but in court, I mean, in actual court, like today with Mike Flynn in a suit sitting there in front of a real judge, it doesn`t come out sounding like it does on TV.  We just got in the transcript from today`s Flynn hearing today. 

Flynn`s defense counsel says to the judge, quote: I think the point is going to be that there is egregious government misconduct.  There`s one thing after the other that we could document that exonerates Mr. Flynn in any number of ways. 

The judge say: When you say exonerates him, but you`re suggesting that a basis exists to file a motion to withdraw his guilty plea?  Is that where this is headed toward?

Remember, Flynn has pled guilty.  He has admitted guilt. 

The judge is saying, whoa, whoa, whoa, he`s exonerated.  You no longer think he`s guilty?  Are you withdrawing his plea?

Flynn`s lawyer says, quote, I can`t say right now exactly where it`s headed but I don`t think it`s going to be a motion to withdraw his guilty plea.  The judge says, all right.  But exonerates, though, that`s -- Flynn lawyers interjects, yes, your honor, exonerate. 

The judge says, to show what?  That he`s innocent of this charge?  Flynn`s lawyer, to show that the entire prosecution should be dismissed for egregious government misconduct.  Which the judge says, ah, I follow you.  All right.

A few minutes later, the judge is trying to kind of wrap up this part of the court hearing today where Flynn is making these allegations against the prosecutors, including that they`re hiding secret classified information that they know exists but they can`t say why and the government isn`t handing it over even though it definitely exists but they can`t say why, and they keep saying that the government has tons of exculpatory information that shows Flynn is innocent and the government is committing crimes by not handing over that information.  They`re willfully hiding it. 

And the judge is kind of trying to wrap up this argument so the judge says today, quote, I want both sides to focus on next steps.  I mean, I`m going to -- I`m making an assumption.  I think an informed assumption that the government is going to say there`s no classified information that we haven`t handed over and we`ve complied with our Brady obligations, meaning we`ve handed over all exculpatory information.  The judge says, that`s an assumption, and -- Flynn`s lawyer interrupts the judge and says, oh, yes, that`s what they always say. 

So, again, it sounds awesome on TV, but in court, it sounds a little different and that`s how things are going for President Trump`s first national security adviser.  That was him in court today playing Russia hoax bingo in the courtroom hearing that was -- in the court hearing on his case at this point. 

It does, though, seem like with Flynn, we`re pretty clearly teeing up two things that are going to happen next.  For the one hand, the whole recommendation that Flynn doesn`t go to jail, that may change.  Prosecutors were asked by the judge today if they still believe that Mike Flynn should get no jail time, if they still belief he`s been an excellent cooperator and should get maximum lenience. 

Prosecutors responded in a way that suggests that it`s no longer their view of this matter.  The judge says, quote, I have to ask you -- talking to the prosecutors -- does the government stand by its sentence sentencing recommendation or is that something the court should wait to receive in writing?  The prosecutor responds, in terms of the government`s position at sentencing, that is something that the government intends to refile.  We`ll refile the appropriate paper work at that time.

So, when Flynn does get sentenced, which looks like it`s going to be December 18th, it looks like he`s no longer going to benefit from prosecutors saying, hey, let him go, he`s been awesome.  Looks like Flynn`s legal strategy may have turned their heads on that matter a little bit. 

It also seems clearer than ever that Flynn`s case is not really designed anymore to try to get him a reduced sentence from this judge, to try to keep the judge from sentencing him to jail.  Reading through the way that Flynn and his lawyers are now approaching this, it seems to me just as a layman watching this as drama that they don`t mind now what the judge is going to sentence Mike Flynn to.  They`re in there to throw as many bombs as possible, to get as much crazy sounding stuff on the record, to make sure that what`s happening in that courtroom lines up as much as possible with what happens on the Fox News Channel because it seems clear that what they`re going for is not lenience from the judge but a pardon from the president, right? 

This deep state conspiracy theory, lock up all the FBI, lock up the prosecutor stuff, is probably not going to move a normal judge, but it will definitely move Fox News` evening and early morning programming which presumably is designed to move the one person who can give Mike Flynn a get-out-of-jail-free card no matter what he did, no matter what he already admitted doing. 

So that was the day that Trump`s first national security adviser had today. 

And you might remember after Mike Flynn had to leave the White House, had to resign or be fired as Trump`s first national security adviser, ahead of his soon-to-be forthcoming felony charges, the president picked a new guy to be his national security adviser following up Flynn.  He picked a navy admiral named Robert Harward as his next choice for national security adviser.  It is almost forgotten now because there`s been so many of these guys.  But Admiral Harward actually turned down Trump`s request to serve in that capacity which was very embarrassing for the Trump administration. 

After that embarrassment with Admiral Harward, President Trump turned to his third choice, General H.R. McMaster who did take the job.  He lasted in that job for about a year despite the fact that for a significant amount of the time that he was serving as national security adviser, the president was happy to openly complain about McMaster and let it be known that he hated being in his company, to the point where he would to longer allow H.R. McMaster to give him national security briefings even though, technically, McMaster was the president`s national security adviser. 

That history between Trump and McMaster is what made this potentially the weirdest headline of them all today.  NBC News reporting that despite the fact that Trump fired McMaster, despite the fact that he went out of his way to humiliate McMaster for months both before firing him and after, NBC News reporting today that recently, President Trump has been calling H.R. McMaster again, saying how much he misses him. 

That`s not me making fun.  That`s the reporting.  Quote: According to two people familiar with the conversations in phone calls to McMaster, Trump told his second national security adviser that he missed him. 

The reason we would seem to be learning this now, the reason this would seem to be reported now, is because however Trump feels about any of his past national security advisers, regardless of how much he misses and loves his exes, as of today, he`s got a new ex.  As of today, he`s fired another one. 

And this relationship ended as raggedly and chaotically as all the rest of them.  National security adviser John Bolton reportedly chairing a principals meeting at the White House as recently as this morning.  The White House press office putting out a statement at 10:56 a.m. today announcing John Bolton would be briefing the press from the White House briefing room today at 10:30 p.m. 

John Bolton, however, did not make it until 1:30 p.m. because one hour and two minutes after this press release from the press secretary about his forthcoming briefing, the president tweeted that John Bolton had been fired and, in fact, he had been fired last night. 

Which makes no sense, right?  The White House was still having Bolton chair meetings at the White House and they were still announcing his forthcoming briefings to the press today.  President says he was fired last night. 

And, you know, at this point, that isn`t even, like, the story here.  We just assume at this point that anything the president says, even about his own behavior, has to be rounded up to the nearest fact.  So nobody much minds that he has clearly told a false story today about the firing of John Bolton, something that plainly cannot be true.  We just let that go. 

I mentioned at the top o the show that we got Samantha Power here tonight for the interview.  As I said, she was President Obama`s U.N. ambassador in his second term. 

One of the things I think is worth remembering about John Bolton today as he is fired as Trump`s third national security adviser is that before the Trump administration was ever born, John Bolton was already one of the most polarizing, controversial, and alienating federal government hires ever when the George W. Bush administration sought to install him as U.N. ambassador, despite Bolton`s record of saying things like this about the united


JOHN BOLTON, THEN-U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS:  The point that I want to leave with you in this very brief presentation is where I started is there is no United Nations.  There is an international community that occasionally can be led by the only real power left in the world, and that`s the United States, when it suits our interests and when we can get others to go along. 

Secretariat Building in New York has 38 stories.  If you lost 10 stories today, it wouldn`t make a bit of difference.  United States makes the U.N. work when it wants it to work and that is exactly the way it should be because the only question, the only question to the United States is what`s in our national interest.  If you don`t like that, I`m sorry, but that is the fact. 


MADDOW:  And the George W. Bush administration, they looked at that and they decided, diplomatic temperament we`re looking for. 

Even the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate would not confirm that person, somebody that controversial to become ambassador to the U.N.  President Bush had to temporarily appoint John Bolton to the job during a congressional recess because that`s the only way they could get him through. 

So, when President Trump hired John Bolton, it`s not like he knew he was getting somebody who was going to make things work smoothly and bring people together.  Neither Mr. Bolton`s tenure in the bush administration nor his time as Trump`s third national security adviser will be remembered for any single accomplishments. 

The hawkish editorial board at the "Washington Post", which is much more conservative than the newspaper as a whole, just lambasted Bolton today on the occasion of his firing in terms that surprised even me. 

Quote: Bolton was picked because Mr. Trump had enjoyed watching him on television.  The result was to compound the chaos which has characterized this administration`s foreign policy.  The national security adviser`s principal responsibility is to oversee a disciplined policymaking process that includes the State Department, Pentagon and intelligence agencies and to tee up big decisions for the president. 

Mr. Bolton did not do that.  Instead, he sniped at initiatives undertaken by others, like North Korea talks and Afghan negotiations, and pursued longstanding pet causes of his own such as his pointless crusade against the International Criminal Court.  He championed an attempted coup against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro which fell flat.  This dysfunction was, of course, enabled and even encouraged by Mr. Trump.

That "Washington Post" editorial tonight concluding with the prospect that President Trump might not even be able to find someone to say yes to this job a fourth time.  Mr. Trump`s fourth national security adviser, if he can find one, given how disastrously wrong it has gone with all the other national security advisers he has had, including Mr. Bolton who`s out as of tonight, I think it`s a fair observation. 

That said, that said, look on the sunny side.  I mean, something about this breakup with John Bolton today has already shined a little love light on H.R. McMaster, right?  The president reportedly calling him now telling him how much he misses him. 

Terrible how that all worked out between us, what are you doing now?  Are you busy?  No, like, send me a picture from where you are.  Right now, just snap it, send it over.

And if you`re trying to be glass half full here, it should also be noted that Mike Flynn may soon be available, right?  I mean, he knows the ropes.  Flynn might be available soon depending on how his sentencing goes in just a few short weeks.  He will either be back on the job market. 

He may or may not have, like, community service responsibilities which might be a little bit of a crunch with that kind of a job, but you never know.  Potentially it could be a work release job if he`s in minimum security prison somewhere or Trump could just pardon him in which case he`d totally be free.  It might be weird to appoint a national security adviser after you had to pardon him for felony charges for things he did when he was your national security adviser before, but honestly would that be any weirder than the distance that we have traveled thus far? 

There`s a lot going on right now, stuff that would be front-page news for months on end in any other administration.  Just today, for example, current and former FEMA officials were charged with felony fraud in conjunction with the disastrous Trump administration disaster response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.  Ten felony federal charges against FEMA officials for having ripped off the taxpayers, effectively, in the Hurricane Maria recovery. 

Tomorrow, there`s going to be a hearing on the Trump administration policy to target sick and dying children for deportation, a policy they have partially reversed in the face of public outcry but not entirely.  So, we expect fireworks at that hearing tomorrow.  We`re going to have extensive coverage on that tomorrow night on this show. 

There`s also going to be a hearing tomorrow, a surprise and sudden hearing on one of the most controversial judicial nominees of the entire Trump presidency.

And tonight, there`s also a bombshell congressional race in North Carolina.  Steve Kornacki will be joining us for an update on that coming up in just a few minutes. 

But as I mentioned, we`ve got Samantha Power here tonight for the interview. 

We got a lot to get to.  Stay with us. 


MADDOW:  So the last election of the 2018 midterms is happening tonight.  Those midterm elections were ten months ago, so it`s weird that they`re not done yet, but the election tonight in North Carolina is a do-over election.  It`s a do-over because cartoon villain level crime was exposed in the original Republican candidate`s campaign back during the actual midterms. 

On election night back in November, it looked like the Republican candidate, Mark Harris, had eked out a narrow victory over Democrat Dan McCready.  Harris won that race by a razor-thin margin by 905 votes, but it did seem like a done deal.  After the election, Harris tweeted this photo from the Capitol: The incoming congressional freshman class.  You can actually see him towards the back, all smiles, happy to be there, and newly elected. 

When it came time for the North Carolina state board of elections to certify the results of his race, though, the board refused to do so, saying that serious irregularities had turned up in that election.  Took a long time to figure out what they were talking about, but eventually, evidence surfaced that Republican Mark Harris` campaign seemed to have funded a pretty blatant, illegal, ballot-tampering scheme, that they hired a political operative, who, frankly, was known for this sort of thing, and that that operative assembled a crew of people to illegally forge absentee ballots. 

And this did not look like a subtle thing.  I mean, this looked like full on wholesale ripping off an election, like stuffed ballot box, old-school- style fraud.  Seven people have already been criminally charged.  In light of all of that, the North Carolina board of elections voted unanimously they would throw out the results of that initial election, hold a new one.  That`s tonight. 

Mark Harris, himself, poofed in the meantime, he went away.  Republicans are running a new candidate this time around.  A North Carolina state senator named Dan Bishop, best known for sponsoring the anti-trans bathroom bill legislation in that state. 

The Democrat in the race is still Dan McCready.  He`s now been on the campaign trail for 27 straight months.  By all accounts, by the numbers, this ought to be a really easy race for Republicans.  This district hasn`t been represented by a Democrat in Congress since the `60s.  Trump won it by nearly 12 points over Hillary Clinton. 

Frankly, the White House was showing confidence that Republican Dan Bishop would run away with this.  They sent President Trump there yesterday to campaign, presumably so they could take credit for having pushed Bishop over the finish line when he ultimately wins this.  But if the original election results, the initial stuff coming in tonight, is any indication, there`s no reason for anybody to be confident in terms of how this is going to work out. 

Joining us now with the very, very, very latest on this race is Steve Kornacki. 

Steve, please let us know how this is proceeding. 

STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT:  Yes, literally votes are coming in.  We just got another update right before you threw it to me.  So, I`m looking at them right here. 

You can see Dan Bishop, the Republican has moved into the lead in this race.  This has all happened in the last couple minutes, about a little less than a point right now is the lead for Bishop over McCready, the Democrat. 

Why this has happened?  Why Bishop who started out when we counted the early vote, to start the night, he was nine points behind, how has he come back?  What`s happened is basically this eastern part of the district here.  This is less populated, rural areas here. 

He`s over-performed especially in the Election Day vote.  In the eastern part of the district, he`s doing better in the places than Mark Harris, the Republican did, in the invalidated election last year.  So, that combined with the strength that Bishop has, this is a gigantic county, Union County. 

It`s a Republican county.  It`s a Republican bastion.  He needed to get at least 60 percent here.  There`s still vote coming in. 

So, all of this now in terms of the Election Day vote has been good news for Dan Bishop.  It`s been good enough, as you can see, to put him in the lead.  It`s just changed again.  Now, it`s down to six-tenths of a point. 

What we will wait, we get all the vote to counting those rural areas, but what the Democrats now have -- that is not what was supposed to happen there.  What the Democrats have to hope for right here, see if we can get this back up.  I set the drama up and this went nuts on me. 

Let`s go -- there we go, district 9, what the Democrats have to hope for right here, it`s a small sliver geographically.  But this is huge population-wise.  And this is why McCready, if you notice, he just got closer while we were talking district wide.  It`s because more vote came in in Mecklenburg. 

This is the largest component of the county in the district. It`s about a third of the population in this district.  This is the charlotte suburbs.  You see McCready leading it 59-40.  What he needs -- he got 54 percent here total in the 2018 election. 

What he needs here is all Election Day vote that`s going to come in, it tends historically to favor the Republicans but some of early precincts have been encouraging for McCready.  He needs to overperform in the Election Day vote in this giant suburban part of the county to offset what`s happening in the rural.

This the largest single outstanding source of vote in this district right now.  I`m just checking to see if it changed again.  It looks like it might have by a little bit there.  But 800 vote, 750 vote difference right now between McCready and Bishop.

Bishop is going to get more out of the union.  Looks like more from the rural areas.  And then the question is, all of those suburbs in Mecklenburg County, what do they do for McCready?  He`s going to need a giant number there. 

This one has been a barn burner, though. 

MADDOW:  Steve, in terms of when the vote is likely to come in, do we know anything about historical trends?  Are they a fast counting district?  Is this -- is there any of this that`s likely to come in before the rest of it? 

KORNACKI:  Yes, no, it all -- generally in North Carolina, we can expect -- now, the question is, if it`s real close, this could be something that goes overnight, down to provisional ballots, something like that. 

Accepting that possibility here, if you go outside of that, then probably by 11:00, 11:30, something like that, they count quickly in North Carolina.  There was a glitch earlier tonight, a gas leak at a polling station in Mecklenburg.  It delayed things a bit, but I don`t thing that`s going to significantly delay it. 

They count pretty fast in North Carolina as you can see.

MADDOW:  Steve Kornacki, thank you very much, my friend.  This is going to be exciting to watch over the course of the evening. 

We`re going to go back to Steve if there are any other big updates.  But as I said, it`s a busy night.  We have Samantha Power here shortly. 

Stay with us. 


MADDOW:  Long before President Obama became President Obama, long before it even seemed possible that he`d be in contention to become president one day, at a time when I was a random unranked radio host and I had very little idea who this Barack Obama was and what he might have to offer as a potential national leader, the very first thing that ever impressed me about this guy, Barack Obama, was when I learned that he had apparently impressed a person named Samantha Power, because at the time, I knew a lot about her and I knew nothing about him, and she just didn`t seem like a person who would be easily impressed.  Her liking him made me more interested in him. 

In 2002, Samantha Power had published a big 600-page-long book on a dark topic, a book that would have been way too intimidating to approach, let alone read and finish, had it not been for the power of her argument and for how well it was written.  But that book, which is called "A Problem from Hell: America in the Age of Genocide," would end up becoming one of the most influential books of this century when it comes to American power and American responsibility and opportunity in a complex and dangerous world. 

And like I said, that was an intimidating topic, that was an intimidating book.  For me, I find as somebody who`s got a book that`s about to come out that I`m nervous about, I find it somehow heartening to know that Random House had initially been the publisher for that book.  When it came time to actually pull the trigger and publish Power`s book, Random House backed out, decided they didn`t want to publish it. 

Then, Houghton Mifflin also said, no, we don`t want to publish it.  And Picador said, no, we don`t want to publish. Farrar Straus said no, not interested.  Simon and Schuster said, nope.  Random House then briefly considered maybe publishing it, maybe considered again, we were wrong the first time, looked at it again, actually, no, we are right when we turned it down. 

It was only because Samantha Power called in not so much a favor, kind of a Hail Mary, that she persuaded New Republic Books, Basic Books, to publish that book, which, again, is called "A Problem from Hell".  And the reason we`ve heard of that book is because it would go on that next year to win the Pulitzer Prize, and as I said, to become more of the century`s landmark moral arguments about America`s way in the world.  It almost didn`t get published. 

Samantha Power had immigrated to this country from Ireland at the age of 9.  She and her family moved to Pittsburgh where she became a Pittsburgh Pirates fan and she forced herself to lose her Irish accent as quickly as possible. 

By the time she was just a year out of college, she had published sort of indispensable timeline of the then-ongoing con conflagration in Yugoslavia, and the ethnic and sectarian warfare that was being stoked by the war criminals there who would ultimately orchestrate the worst massacres in Europe since World War II.  Relentlessly and rigorously critical of the tendency of American politicians to assert never again, that America would never again allow a genocide like the Nazis perpetrated in World War II, while at the same time American politicians and decision-makers excused our own country`s indifference now to genocidal campaigns around the world, even when very limited U.S. action could make all the difference as to whether hundreds of thousands of people lived or died. 

Samantha Power sort of gut-checked and changed our country`s self- conception about what we could do in the world and why.  Her career since is part of the reason you know about Ratko Mladic, and Srebrenica and Rwanda and Darfur.  She ultimately started working with then-senator Barack Obama when he first came to Washington.  She then became part of his presidential campaign. 

When President Obama brought her into his presidential administration as a top national security aide, she was thought of as Dexter Filkins says in the new piece today in "The New Yorker", she was thought of as, quote, an in-house conscience for the White House on matters of foreign policy.

And while it is impressive, literally, I was impressed that this Barack Obama would bring on someone as clarion and uncompromising on these issues as Samantha Power, it must have also been a little bit daunting to say, yes, come with me, you the person who`s been telling us what we`ve been doing wrong on genocide for generations, you come help me make these real- world decisions. 


BARACK OBAM, FORMER PRESIDENT:  Samantha first came to work for me in 2005 shortly after I became a United States senator.  As one of our country`s leading journalists, I think she won the Pulitzer Prize at the age of 15 or 16.  One of our foremost thinkers on foreign policy, she showed us that the international community has a moral responsibility and profound interest in resolving conflicts and defending human dignity. 


From the day I met you and you told me that you had spent a chunk of your vacation reading a long, dark, book on genocide, I knew you were a different kind of leader and I knew I wanted to work for you. 

I moved to the United States from Ireland when I -- with my parents who are here when I was 9 years old.  I remember very little about landing in Pittsburgh except that I was sure I was at the largest airport in the history of the world.  I do remember what I was wearing.  A red, white, and blue stars and stripes t-shirt.  It was a t-shirt I always wore in Ireland on special occasions. 

Even as a little girl with a thick Dublin accent who`d never been to America, I knew that the American flag was a symbol of fortune and of freedom.  But I quickly came to learn that to find opportunity in this country, one didn`t actually need to wear the flag.  One just needed to try to live up to it. 

For the next three months, I came home from school every day as my mother can attest, my dad can attest, and I sat in front of the mirrors for hours straining to drop my brog so that I, too, could quickly speak and be American. 


MADDOW:  Samantha Power worked in the Obama administration for all eight years of the administration.  First at the National Security Council, and then as U.N. ambassador.  She was always going to be a high-profile member of the administration given her expertise and her background and her own capabilities.  As U.N. ambassador, she took that to something of a higher level. 

She joins us next.  Stay with us. 



POWER:  To the Assad regime, Russia and Iran, your forces and proxies are carrying out these crimes.  Your barrel bombs and mortars and air strikes have allowed the militia in Aleppo to encircle tens of thousands of civilians in your ever-tightening noose. 

It should shame you.  Instead, by all appearances, it is emboldening you.  You are plotting your next assault. 

Are you truly incapable of shame?  Is there literally nothing that can shame you?  Is there no act of barbarism against civilians, no execution of a child, that gets under your skin, that just creeps you out a little bit?  Is there nothing you will not lie about or justify? 


MADDOW:  Samantha Power has just written this new book, it`s called "The Education of An Idealist."  It`s out as of right now. 

Joining us for "The Interview" is former U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power.

It`s great to have you here.  Congratulations. 

POWER:  Glad to be here.  Thank you. 

MADDOW:  So you`re a very good writer which makes it more fun and honestly truly engrossing to read a memoir about a former U.S. official. 

POWER:  Well, thank you. 

MADDOW:  Which is an unusual thing. 

POWER:  Thank you.

MADDOW:  So, thank you for writing a book that`s a pleasure to read. 

POWER:  Not sure about the genre, the bar, like the bar is, the former --


MADDOW:  The former official memoir is not usually a great book. 

POWER:  Right.

MADDOW:  This is a good book. 

Let me ask you about that footage that I just played there of you.  That`s December 2016.  So, that`s after the November 2016 election.  Obviously, that is a confrontation over things that are going on with Syria.  You are directing those remarks to the Russian counterpart at the U.N.

When you said no execution of a child that gets under your skin, that just creeps you out a little bit, you were not reading your prepared remarks. 

POWER:  Those were not cleared by 45,000 people in the bowels of the State Department, no.  But that was a great privilege that I had, in the role that I had, and I had a long leash as President Obama liked to say.  And, you know, part of what went on in those jobs and could be a little bit terrifying at times but was to have to play out those confrontations with Russia on live television, feeling like you`re back in the cold war. 

That wasn`t the job I thought I was taking.  I was taking a job where we had moved into the reset.  We were going to try to figure out how to solve problems like we did on the Iran nuclear file together, but then not long after I arrived, they invaded Ukraine and then do what they do in Syria. 

I will say that that video, I think, which went viral, as they say, at the time may have gone viral a little bit because of the barbarism of what they were doing in Aleppo and what the Syrian regime was doing, but I do think to your point about the timing, it was a lot about people feeling -- desperately longing for people to still retain the ability to feel shame including in our own politics.  And, of course, the revelations about Russia`s interference in the election which had been known in advance of November up to a point but then really, you know, burst onto the public stage.  So I think that`s what people were longing to say to Putin in the wake of the result, there`s nothing you won`t do --

MADDOW:  Yes. 

POWER:  Are there no accountability, are there no standards in this world?

MADDOW:  I mean, looking -- the way you`re putting that, looking back at that time, you know, trying for a reset, trying for a reorganization and renewal of trust with Russia in so many issues, to see them take so many dark turns so quickly with what looks very much like a stolen election, in terms of what happened in 2011 and 2012, and Putin engineering himself back into another term, and then the annexation of Crimea, and the occupation and the war they started in Ukraine, and then what they did to us and what they did in Syria and all of those things. 

I mean, when you were in there in the fight, were you constantly surprised that Russia was taking these dark turns?  Did you feel like this idea that there could have been a reset, there could have been a more constructive relationship was naive?  Did they do things you expected them to do? 

POWER:  They exceeded my worst expectations, put it that way, certainly culminating in the -- just the scope of the election interference, the multifaceted nature of it.  Some of that, we really got more and more of the details of that as time unfolded.  We knew, you know, what they were doing and tried to raise the flag about what they were doing ahead of time but nowhere near the scale of it. 

But, you know, the Russian system, like many around the world was also comprised of people with very different sensibilities.  So, my counterpart was trying to kind of pull water from a stone, try to forge some form of cooperation at the same time publicly, he`s spewing Putin`s lines, knowing that if he doesn`t, you know, he`ll lose his job or God knows what else. 

And so, it really was, I think there was a moment, I`m not sure exactly -- I don`t know how I would pinpoint it but where Putin just decided that the international order that was coming to be with its aging population and its sort of stagnant economy, that this was not an order that benefited him politically.  Like our current president, Putin cares about Putin. 

MADDOW:  Uh-huh.

POWER:  Putin doesn`t care about the Russian people.  So for Putin, the ticket to self-sustainment was demagoguery, nationalism, you know, you know, bringing Russia from its knees.  And I think there is a lesson for us which we did not see sufficiently.  We, the Obama administration, but I think across the board, the sort of dignity deficit for Russia in the wake of the Cold War, we were thumping our chests about the victory in the Cold War, you know, this was a proud nation with an amazing history, with an amazing traditions and just feeling look passed, as we`re moving on, I think about our relationship with China, how the European Union is going to be the new partner. 

So, you know, I think all of us have to look back at the missed moments, maybe there was some initiative, something we could have tried that would have met them where they are.  But I think Putin`s own objective in enhancing his own power led him to basically tear up the envelope to the world. 

MADDOW:  And to decide that nothing that that Western-led order could deliver to him in terms of consequences of anything he was going to care about. 

POWER:  Absolutely. 

MADDOW:  I have to ask you about today`s news that the president is going to be looking for a fourth national security adviser which is an --

POWER:  So far. 

MADDOW:  -- unprecedented pace. 

Exactly.  So far, he`s going for number four.  He`s already broken his own record in terms of the number of national security advisers he`s blown through. 

I wonder, just having been part of the National Security Council process, having spent all those years with President Obama, who obviously had a very different approach to these matters, is it dangerous, is it things that we as regular citizens should worry about to have that kind of turnover in that kind of job? 

POWER:  No question.  And when you compound the vacancy there now with who just held the job, right?  Because having John Bolton as national security adviser had its own perils associated with it as we saw in nearly launching a military strike against Iran.  But if you combine that with not having a secretary of homeland security, a deputy secretary of homeland security, 20 senior vacancies at the Pentagon, multiple ambassadorial posts without ambassadors in really important places and no director of national intelligence, no deputy director of national intelligence -- I mean, these jobs exist for a reason. 

Yes, there can be too much bureaucracy.  But to have senior people around the room who tell -- I mean, I hope this happens in some room somewhere in the Trump administration.  It`s not evident that it does, but where you have people with different viewpoints who challenge propositions that are at the table, bringing their different life experiences, their different so-called equities.  That`s just -- I mean, there was no process under John Bolton.  There has been no process really from the beginning. 

MADDOW:  You chafe at some of the process.  I mean, in the book you talk about being amazed how many cook that were in the kitchen and how many people signed on --


POWER:  It`s spinach.  It`s spinach, right?  Initially, I chafed so much because all the clearances and, you know, just the bureaucratese and, you know, I`m doer and wanting to try to think about how we want to promote human rights, or how we curtail assistance to an abuser, how we do this or that, and there are 15 people I have to check with before I even meet with a dissident in the White House.  It made me crazy. 

But at the same time, I want a human rights voice in the room when we`re talking about the drone program or when we`re talking about resuming military assistance to an abusive regime, I want to be that voice in the room.  And so, process protects you, especially when you have a leader who`s capable of being challenged, who invites challenge, as President Obama did. 

I mean, if I was quiet, I tell these stories in the book, if I was quiet in a meeting but I have sort of not the best poker face in the history of the world and Obama would be like, what`s wrong with Sam?  You know, is she sick?  Are you sick?  Like what`s on your mind?  You`re frowning. 

You know, he wanted --  

MADDOW:  Called you out.

POWER:  Yes, and then he may not like what I heard.  He may regret that he called on me. 

But it`s the complete opposite.  I mean, here why did Bolton lose his job?  Because he actually disagreed. 

MADDOW:  Mm-hmm. 

POWER:  So, you know, you don`t know what to fear most, Bolton agreeing with the president or Bolton disagreeing and -- you know, but any dissent, anything that isn`t aligned with the mercurial instincts of this person who rules by fiat and not through a deliberative process, you know, is not only frowned upon but they get the ax. 

MADDOW:  I have one last question I want to ask you about this book.  Can you stay for just a second? 

POWER:  Yes, please?

MADDOW:  Samantha Power is our guest.  The new book is called "The Education of an Idealist."

We`ll be right back. 


MADDOW:  One day, having again forgotten an appointment, I called the doctor at the last minute to see if he could hold the session by telephone and he agreed.  I sat on my couch as I talked through my latest relapse with an ex-boyfriend who was separated from his wife but making no move to break permanently free. 

As I spoke, I suddenly heard a beep, beep, beep in the background.  I thought I recognized the noise but I couldn`t quite believe it until I heard it again.  What`s that sound?, I asked.  The therapist didn`t answer.  Are you at an F-ing ATM, I asked, indignantly. 

From the moment he admitted that he was, in fact, multitasking at the bank, I renounced therapy and resolved that I would figure myself out after I finished my book. 

Samantha Power, you tell an intensely personal story here about learning to cope with anxiety and with your own demons while doing incredibly difficult work. 

Was that hard to decide to commit that to paper? 

POWER:  Yes, definitely.  But when I see young people who are so motivated by the ills of the world but themselves have doubts very similar to those that I had, I thought maybe if I leave it out there, this will be a relatable story, not the U.N. ambassador or former cabinet official, but a human who`s doing the best she can to the best of her ability, with all the bats in the bat cave, you know, occasionally creeping up.  And you can neutralize them if you have the right friends and family, I think, overtime. 

MADDOW:  You need support but you need to work at it. 

POWER:  With a lot of support, sometimes (ph).

MADDOW:  "The Education of an Idealist", new memoir by Samantha Power -- thank you so much. 

POWER:  Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW:  Great to have you here.  Congratulations. 

POWER:  Great to be here.  Thank you. 

MADDOW:  We`ll be right back.  Stay with us.


MADDOW:  Tomorrow, of course, is the anniversary of the September 11th attacks.  There`s also going to be a couple things to watch for in Washington that`ll probably be overshadowed by the 9/11 anniversary.  But they`re big consequential things that you might want to watch for in tomorrow`s news. 

One is that there`s going to be a hearing tomorrow in Congress on this unannounced new policy by the Trump administration where they seem to target dying children and their families specifically for deportation.  Congress is holding its first hearing on that tomorrow, and it ought to be a blockbuster.  We`ll have full coverage on that for you tomorrow night. 

Tomorrow, also, we`re expecting a confirmation hearing for one of the most controversial Trump judicial of his entire tenure.  A nominee named Steven Menashi who was nominated to a federal appeals court.  There were dozen of people arrested today on Capitol Hill in various senators` offices, in offices of senators both in the Democratic and Republican Party, all protesting against Menashi`s nomination. 

Watch for that confirmation hearing tomorrow.  They`re trying to make that go quickly and quietly but I think that it won`t. 

That does it for us tonight.  We`ll see you again tomorrow. 


Good evening, Lawrence.

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